Celebrate the Power of Words: World Read Aloud Day 2013

March 1st was Read Across America Day, devoted to a celebration of reading. It always takes place on or near Dr. Seuss’ birthday, and the Cat in the Hat has long served as its mascot. In many schools across the country, this day often kicks off or wraps up a week-long celebration of reading. At the elementary school where I taught, this included having green eggs and ham for lunch one day and dressing up as characters from our favorite books. My favorite part of all of it were the read-alouds. That’s why I’m super-excited about this year’s World Read Aloud Day, sponsored by the non-profit literacy organization LitWorld. Today, people everywhere are encouraged to read aloud to one another. Here’s why:

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.

Last year, I read my absolute favorite children’s book – If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff – and posted the video for some special kids in my life. This year, I’m going to be reading some yet-to-be-determined piece to the students in my freshman composition class. And I’ll probably make my boyfriend read to me from the novel he’s reading (this is not a common occurrence). Last night, we spent time with his daughter reading at the local Barnes & Noble, as is part of our Tuesday night ritual. Sometimes, I record the poems I am reading. I’ve shared a few on Soundcloud.

It’s easy to get in on the fun, even if you can’t think of anyone to read to or to have read to you. It’s as simple as finding something good to read, recording it (video or audio), and sharing it.  YouTube already has several video submissions. Xe Sands is doing a special edition of #GoingPublic in honor of the day, and she’ll be posting submissions to the Going Public Project blog. If you’re looking for some good reading material, here are a few suggestions from me and a few of the other Rioters:

For Kids: 

Anything by Dr. Seuss, though my favorites are  Oh! The Places You’ll Go and Green Eggs and Ham.

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman.  Practice your fake sneezes!

Any of the If You Give A… books by Laura Numeroff. They are great for participation.

And, because it was my students absolute favorite book, Los tres pececitos y el tiburón feroz by Ken Geist.  It exists in English as The Three LIttle Fish and the Big Bad Shark, but the Spanish was more fun to read aloud, especially when you have a room full of kindergarten kids doing the shark’s lines.  It’s pretty cute.

Poetry:

“Variations on the Word Sleep” by Margaret Atwood. I read this poem in front of an audience a few times in college, and the response was so positive that I’ve made it a point to never forget it.

“Poetry” by Pablo Neruda. The first stanza is the last thing that appears on the screen at the end of the movie il Postino. I fell in love with it there, and it has stayed with me always.

“Poem 20” by Pablo Neruda. Another one of Neruda’s amazing love poems. I love it because it speaks to uncertainty that we feel at the end of a relationship. Don’t read aloud to new significant others or people that you someday hope to marry. They may get the wrong idea.

“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. Peter says that he recorded the poem last Halloween and had great fun with it. And if you don’t believe him, then trust Homer, Bart, and James Earl Jones. Or Christopher Walken.

“Stopping by Woods on a Snow Evening” by Robert Frost. This is one of Johann’s favorites, too. I learned it in sixth grade, and I use it in my own classes now. It’s perfect for reading aloud.

“The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is another good one that I learned in middle school. Nicole’s boyfriend likes to read it for her the anniversary of the ride. He does the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, too.

Novels:

I’ve done extended read-alouds of a few books, like Night by Elie Wiesel and Company K by William March. They’re good, but they are also devastatingly sad. Peter just read the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, to his boys and said it was a “delight.” Rebecca’s dad read The Hobbit to her when she was a kid, and she says it was definitely better aloud. She and Johann both recommend reading Farhenheit 451 out loud, and based on the strength of the first line alone, I wholeheartedly agree. Because she had never read it before and it is his favorite book, Nicole’s boyfriend also read Moby-Dick aloud to her. That’s a book that definitely seems to be better read aloud, if all the marathon readings and read-alongs are any indication. 

Now that you have some ideas as to what to read, take a look at this video from LitWorld. They’ll explain the motivation.

So what are you waiting for? Dust off your favorite kids book or find a passage from that book you love so much, and go read it to someone. When you’re done, sit back and let them read to you. It will be worth it.

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